The construction and marketing of poker machines is a massive and constantly expanding industry. Success in this industry is based on the ability of game designers and marketing teams to create machines that give players an illusion of control. The illusion of control is the tendency for people to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they demonstrably have no influence over.
The intention of game designers is to make players THINK they have some control the machine or are able to influence the outcome of a game when in fact the outcome of the game is completely random or predetermined. A real life example of the illusion of control is the belief often held by young children learning to cross the street. If they press the button to cross fast enough or a particular number of times they might think they can control the changing of the traffic lights, which are in fact programmed to change at specific intervals determined by the expected flow of traffic of a given road.
Every element of the gaming experience, from the symbols and sounds of a game to the curvature of the machine’s screen are the product of hours of research undertaken by the gaming industry for the sole purpose of increasing a user’s sense of control over the outcome of the machine.
Director of Game Development for Bally Technologies, Brett Jackson says “One of the things that really sets apart slot machine design is that our games cannot be skill based, they are about random outcomes, … so to make it exciting for they player quite often what we will do is create the illusion of skill where there is a lot of interactions but they do NOT change the outcome of the game”.
Modern technology creates new ways for the gaming industry to deceive players into thinking that they are in control of a game in which they are not.
Curved screens make the player feel they are participating rather than watching the game and help players stay in the ‘zone’. The use of ‘turning reels’ makes the person feel that the timing of their touch of the button has an impact of what symbols appear, when in actuality the symbols which appear are chosen by a random number generator and appear three seconds after the first button press. The random number generator chooses particular symbols regardless of the timing or pressure of the person’s button press.
Touch-screen poker machines have increased the interactive- element of poker machines, with animations including bubbles or hearts when players ‘rub the machine for luck’. The continual development of gaming machine technology mean that players must be educated on the tactics employed by marketing agencies and game designers who aim to trick players into thinking they control a game which is governed purely by chance.
For those who think they may have a problem with poker machines or any other form of gambling, help is available. A gambling counsellor can be found by calling Gambling Help on 1800 858 858. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.